How Mindfulness Can Reverse the Obesity Epidemic

By Michael Dangovian

September 25, 2017

So much of our health builds upon the patterns we either fall into or mold ourselves, slowly and over time.

I have a theory. I think one of the leading causes of obesity in this country is a lack of mindfulness.

We’re very good at keeping ourselves distracted. Full days can fly by and, by the end of them, a lot of times you can’t even remember what you did.

But a healthy, happy life first starts with being present.

mindfulness

Presence

Being present in your life, in each moment. Being mindful of where you are in the world, your place, and how you relate to both yourself and others.

I say that the obesity epidemic is, on one level at least, a lack of mindfulness because of this one simple question: “How do you end up obese?”

It doesn’t happen overnight. And sure, some of us are a little more environmentally susceptible to it, but never in an absolute, fatalistic way.

From my work with our Healthful Evolutions members, I’ve seen a pattern that happens in a lot of people’s lives. They start out eating the Standard American Diet, mainly because that’s what their parents fed them. And from childhood on, they don’t ever consider eating anything else. Once those dietary patterns settle in, autopilot kicks on.


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This learned response is one of the reasons why you can sit on the couch, turn on the TV, and at the end of an hour find that you've eaten an entire family-size back of Lay’s sour cream and onion chips.

In our culture, it’s easy to do. It’s easy to find something that distracts us away from our lives. And a lot of that temptation, I think, has to do with our desire to avoid the negative things inside us. The stuff that causes painful, internal tension.

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Avoidance

We’re amazing at not dealing with things. At avoiding the questions that we ought to be asking every day… Why do I do this or that? Why is feeling unhappy, distracted, and physically sick better than sitting down and working through the underlying issues?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not being judgy about this at all. I struggled with exactly this problem for most of my life. In fact, I still struggle with it. We as humans have a constant desire to escape danger. And when that danger is inside of us, abandoning the moment, getting outside of ourselves, feels like a legitimate choice. The problems will be there later. We can just deal with them sometime in the future.

But you can see how this ties into our obesity epidemic. By not being mindful of what we eat, what we do with our bodies, and how we’re genuinely feeling… It doesn’t take long for those patterns of distraction and escape to take over the steering wheel and direct us toward disease and depression.

 

mindfulness

So, What’s the Answer?

The first step is to understand that you tend to run on autopilot. Recognizing that will go a long way toward allowing you to take back your health.

The second step is to do the hard work of asking the questions you’ve been avoiding for so long. How are your feeling? Why do you feel that way? What makes you feel better? Why do you mindlessly move toward one type of distraction instead of another?

And finally, begin building a habit of mindfulness. To start to take just a few minutes each day to just be. Take a walk, or sit in a quiet spot. Do something relaxing. Then spend that time just paying attention to what’s going on inside you. Breathe deeply and let those internal problems rise to the surface. Look at them from different angles, see what emotions they connect to.

Do this for a few weeks, gradually increasing the time you spend, until you find yourself practicing mindfulness at other points during the day without consciously doing it.

So much of our health builds upon the patterns we either fall into or mold ourselves, slowly and over time.

If we all did this, our nation would be far healthier, happier, and much lighter. It would be a wonderful place to live. But, here’s the thing. It doesn’t have to be just a dream. You can start doing your part today by practicing mindfulness. It won’t be long before you see real changes throughout every area of your life. Changes, I know from experience, that will surprise you!

It’s your life. And you only get one. You deserve to be happy. And you also deserve to live every last minute of it.

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